Cristiano Ronaldo has had a difficult season at Manchester United so far. The Portugal international is yet to score from seven appearances across all competitions, while he’s been restricted to just two starts under Erik ten Hag. While he didn’t want to play in the Europa League, however, the 37-year-old now has no choice in the matter…
Ronaldo wanted to leave Manchester United back in the summer.
Having scored 24 goals across all competitions amid a difficult year under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick, the Portugal international felt he’d earned the right to leave.
However, despite links to the likes of Borussia Dortmund, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Napoli, the veteran ended up staying.
United are expected to go strong for tonight’s match with Sheriff and, with Ronaldo getting fitter and fitter, it’s feasible the veteran will be given the nod up top.
Express Sport will now take a look at three motivations the Portugal international will have as he battles to win Ten Hag’s trust and prove he’s still got what it takes to play at the highest level.
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Regain scoring touch
Let’s start with the obvious.
Ronaldo’s goals were vital for United last season because, without them, it’s possible they’ll be playing in the UEFA Conference League instead of the Europa League.
But he’s been poor in front of goal this term, cutting a flat figure in defeats to Brentford and Real Sociedad.
Ronaldo’s goalscoring statistics throughout his career are staggering, with the veteran one of the best in the business when it comes to that regard.
So going seven matches without noticing this term will undoubtedly be playing on his mind as the 37-year-old looks to finally get off the mark.
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Goals aren’t everything Ten Hag looks for in a forward, however.
The Dutchman wants somebody with speed and the willingness to press, which is part of the reason he’s preferred Marcus Rashford down the middle throughout his tenure so far.
United are yet to welcome Anthony Martial back from injury and there’s also a sense that, once the France international is fully fit again, he’ll be another talismanic option.
Ronaldo must put in a stellar display, one that ticks all of Ten Hag’s boxes, to show that he’s worthy of the No 9 role.
The Dutchman has insisted egos mean nothing to him at Old Trafford, meaning his No 7 has never had a bigger fight on his hands to get into the starting XI.
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Get back at Messi
On Wednesday night, Lionel Messi scored for Paris Saint-Germain as they came from behind to beat Maccabi Haifa in the Champions League.
It now means the Argentina international has broken Ronaldo’s record in the competition, having scored in the tournament for the 18th year in a row.
So that will give the United star even more rocket fuel if he’s unleashed from the start against Sheriff.
Ronaldo won’t want his fierce rival to hog all the headlines.
Therefore, scoring in the Europa League – and ensuring he takes center stage once again – will be something the Portugal international will want to achieve this evening.
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Ten Hag asked about Ronaldo
Speaking at his press conference ahead of United’s showdown with Sheriff, Ten Hag kept his cards close to his chest.
“I’m sorry but the Moldovan fans will have to wait until tomorrow,” he said.
And Ten Hag has admitted United can’t underestimate their opponents given how well they did in the Champions League last term.
“That is clear. They beat Real Madrid, and beat Shakhtar Donetsk but, also, we know what we are capable of,” he said.
“We beat the number one team from last season [in some respects] in Liverpool and beat the current number one in the league [in Arsenal] so it’s up to us.
“If we perform, we will get the right result.”
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